First Advisor

Susan B. Poulsen

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Interpersonal communication, Nonverbal communication in children, Anxiety



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vii, 224 p.)


The confidence to communicate orally with others is the first requisite for verbal interaction. Anxiety which occurs in anticipation of speaking with others or while engaged in speaking hinders interaction, and is referred to as communication apprehension. This study examines levels of communication apprehension among a sample primary school population and the possible relationship between such levels and frequencies of nonverbal behaviors called self-adaptors that may be associated with the anxiety. Greater awareness of communication apprehension in children is justified in light of research that suggests it is negatively related to academic achievement in elementary school students. A four-month field~study was conducted in a Northwestern suburban elementary school by the researcher who had taught in the school for the previous seven years. The hypothesis tested was that a positive correlation exists between levels of communication apprehension and displayed self-adaptor behaviors. The study employed methodological triangulation, using both quantitative and qualitative data. An established self-report measure (MECA) consisting of a 20-item questionnaire suggesting various communication situations was administered to 42 third grade students and analyzed using descriptive statistics. Students scoring one standard deviation above the mean were identified as communication apprehensive (CA). Nervous behaviors called self-adaptors were tallied using a researcher developed measurement tool (UBSSF), and the frequencies of these behaviors correlated with the results of the self-report measure to find the predicted association. The hypothesis was not supported in this study. Complementary qualitative information also provided substantial data. This included classroom observations and videotapings of students in small group work sessions, individual recorded interviews of the CA students using film elicitation and interviews with their classroom teachers, field notes (general notations, oral data from teaching specialists, and additional demographic information), and continuing information from the apprehensive students following the conduct of the study. All qualitative data was examined for cross-situational consistency thought to be associated with communication apprehension. Significant evidence for a correlation between levels of communication apprehension and frequency of self-adaptor behaviors was not found. However, this study contributed to a greater understanding of CA by challenging currently held views on communication apprehension. Also, through the use of method triangulation, quantitative and qualitative forms of self report provided some evidence for the crosssituational consistency of CA. Communication apprehensive students were found to be aware of their anxieties and able to verbally address their fears. The phenomenological interpretation of CA student and teacher interview texts facilitated the reconstruction of the participants' perspectives. Finally, suggestions by the researcher addressed the training of teachers to raise their awareness of communication apprehension and to provide needed accommodation of CA students in the classroom.


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